A Travellerspoint blog

July 2019

Airbnb

Tbilisi - My Balcony

Tbilisi - My Balcony

Tourism overload is a hot topic every summer in Scotland, and it takes several forms. One of them is Airbnb.

Whilst it may be a problem in some parts of the country, and great for others, the situation in Edinburgh is what often catches the headlines. People who live in apartment buildings (usually what we call tenements) lose neighbours and gain transient visitors who may just stay one night.

They may arrive in the early hours, and keep “holiday” hours, returning noisily after the pub shuts to wake up the other residents.

Owners can make more profit out of these short term lets than from longer term rentals. Businesses have grown up to service them for absentee owners.

I have read of similar issues in Barcelona and Toulouse.

Toulouse Apartment 2018

Toulouse Apartment 2018

I have been an Airbnb user (and fan) for several years. If I am staying somewhere for more than a night or two, I like the space and privacy of a studio or apartment. I like being able to live like a local rather than in a homogenised hotel. I have had great stays in Airbnbs from Rīga to Tbilisi and from Amsterdam to Reykjavík.

Girne - Living Room

Girne - Living Room

Very few have been operated through agencies. I remember two in Toulouse where owners were very clearly absentee. In one the agent was awkward - for example he wanted to meet to give me access at a precise time - not easy when you are arriving on a flight and then taking a bus from the airport.

In the other the agent was super pleasant and helpful.

Oslo Airbnb

Oslo Airbnb

In several places I was quite clearly living in the owner’s home - their clothes and other personal possessions were there, with some space cleared for mine. In the one I used in Girne (North Cyprus) the owner had just rented/bought an apartment specifically for Airbnb. However, he did all the work involved in checking me in and out.

In Reykjavík I was in the basement apartment of the owners’ house, and their teenagers’ job was to do the Airbnb tasks.

Home from Home, Vilnius

Home from Home, Vilnius

I know the Scottish Parliament has considered legislating to control short term rentals. I know Airbnb has lobbied MSPs against it. I suspect some form of regulation will arrive sooner rather than later. I will continue to use Airbnb, and I will continue to be a good neighbour for the other residents wherever I am. I will try to avoid the units which are obviously absentee owned and agency operated.

If you have any thoughts on the upsides and downsides - either as a user, an owner or a neighbour - please comment.

Posted by IainT 23:23 Comments (0)

Orkney - Basics

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Stromness Sunday

Stromness Sunday

Time for a summary of the nuts and bolts of my visit to Orkney in July 2019.

I flew from Aberdeen to Kirkwall (and vice versa) with Loganair. Aberdeen is not the closest airport to home (it is Edinburgh) and whilst Loganair does fly between Edinburgh and Kirkwall, the flight times from Aberdeen suited me better.

Loganair's Saab 2000

Loganair's Saab 2000

The flights cost £146 return, and that ticket class includes a checked in bag.

Kirkwall Airport Terminal

Kirkwall Airport Terminal

It is possible to drive to Orkney obviously, with several ferry options from the north coast. However, it is a journey of close to 7 hours each way and for a short weekend break, that makes no sense.

I stayed overnight at Aberdeen Airport on the outward trip, at the Moxy Hotel. It cost £51, with breakfast (£12) and parking (£5) extra.

Moxy Decor

Moxy Decor

I arranged parking at Aberdeen Airport with Park and Depart whilst I was in Orkney. It cost £20 from first thing Friday until Sunday evening.

Moxy Lounge

Moxy Lounge

In Kirkwall I stayed two nights at the Storehouse, which I did a stand alone review of.

Location, Location, Location

Location, Location, Location

I took the public bus between the airport and the town centre. It runs every 30 minutes most of the time - less on Sunday. The journey takes less than 15 minutes.

Kirkwall Airport

Kirkwall Airport

I also used the public bus to visit Stromness - a 30 minute trip each way. I am the proud owner of a Scottish Government bus pass (free to all over 60s), so I paid nothing.

I had booked flights to and from North Ronaldsay for the Saturday. It is the most northerly of the islands, with Loganair’s Inter Island service being the alternative to the twice weekly ferry. It cost £18 each way. Sadly, they could not fly that day due to mist and low cloud on North Ronaldsay.

Posted by IainT 02:25 Archived in Scotland Tagged planes food scotland restaurants flights aberdeen airlines orkney kirkwall islandlife Comments (0)

Kirkwall

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The Storehouse

The Storehouse

Careful observers will be aware I spend a lot of my trips in airport hotels, Airbnb places and chain hotels.

It makes little sense to write reviews of those types of place.

I will not bore everyone with the reasons, but it is unusual for me to stay in routine hotels these days. If I am in Scotland, I am always seeking out a classy guest house or bed and breakfast. It has worked for me recently in Stornoway and on Tiree, Islay, Gigha and Seil.

When it came to planning my visit to Orkney in July ’19 I latched onto a relatively new place in Kirkwall - The Storehouse. The owners describe it as a restaurant with rooms. I suppose that intrigued me.

I chose well.

As the name suggests it is a converted warehouse, right in the centre of Kirkwall. My room was a delight, in terms of comfort, amenities and style. To be honest I did not switch on the TV, but I do not watch at home and have lost the habit.

Many years ago I stayed in a hotel in Copenhagen which had retained the old beams and pillars, and avoiding the pillar on the way to the toilet in the middle of the night was a bit of a challenge. I did better at The Storehouse. No black eye to explain away.

Bedroom

Bedroom

I had dinner in the restaurant on my first night, and it was one of the best meals I have had for a long time. I had a crab cake as starter, followed by scallops with monkfish. The service was excellent too.

Restaurant

Restaurant

My room rate included breakfast, and being used to just a smoothie and maybe a crispbread at that time of the day, I enjoyed letting myself live a little. The end result was a shortage of appetite for the rest of the day, but you cannot have it both ways.

The Storehouse is convenient for the bus station (to get to and from the airport, or further afield) and those inter island ferries which leave from Kirkwall. The airport is a 5 minute taxi ride away.

Shower Room

Shower Room

My room was £150 per night, inclusive of breakfast. Comparing like with like - although I do not remember staying in a “restaurant with rooms” before - I paid that much on Barra last year for a hotel which was 3rd rate. The Storehouse is top class.

Bedroom

Bedroom

My dinner cost £41, including a large glass of white wine. Like the room, it was not in the budget category but top class.

If you are heading for Kirkwall, I recommend it.

Posted by IainT 23:20 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland restaurants orkney kirkwall islandlife Comments (0)

Orkney

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Heritage

Heritage


I’m back!

10 years ago I visited Orkney for the first time. I drove, taking the ferry from John O’Groats. It took close to 7 hours, excluding comfort stops.

Kirkjuvarg Gin Distillery

Kirkjuvarg Gin Distillery

This time I flew, with Loganair from Aberdeen (they fly from Edinburgh too, but the Aberdeen flight times suited me better).

Loganair Saab 2000

Loganair Saab 2000

On my last visit I stayed for close to a week, but this time I am just here over the weekend.

St Magnus Cathedral

St Magnus Cathedral

So far, so good. The Loganair Experience was excellent, as usual. Kirkwall Airport is small and perfectly formed, like other island airports. Stagecoach operates a bus service into town every 30 minutes during the day. It takes less than 15 minutes. Ideal.

Kirkwall Airport

Kirkwall Airport

I am staying at the Storehouse in Kirkwall town centre. It is expensive, but lovely. I ate there on my first night and it was the best food I have eaten for a long time. Crabcake as a starter, followed by monkfish with scallops. Again it was not cheap, but it was worth it.

The Storehouse

The Storehouse

Island life seems to appeal to me.

Posted by IainT 08:06 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland restaurants transport flights airlines orkney kirkwall islandlife Comments (0)

Iceland - Travel Tips

all seasons in one day
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Keflavík Airport

Keflavík Airport

I arrived in Iceland on Atlantic Airways from Vágar in the Faroe Islands. The flight cost £219, including a checked in bag (23kg) and seat selection. I left on easyJet for Edinburgh, at a cost of £149 - also including a checked in bag (15kg) and seat selection.

Iceland’s international airports is at Keflavík, 49km (30 miles) west of Reykjavík. Do not confuse it with Reykjavík Airport, which is in the city. It is mostly for internal flights, plus some Greenland services.

Keflavík was excellent on arrival and departure.

Three coach companies transport passengers between the city and Keflavík. I used Flybus. It has its city terminus at BSÍ, close to the city centre. The other bus services use different city termini. The bus cost me £20 for a single ticket. The journey takes about 50 minutes.

I had an Airbnb apartment for 5 nights, in a suburb close to the city centre - I like to be somewhere quiet. It cost £101 per night. With two bedrooms, it was large for my needs and gave me plenty space. It came with a selection of bikes to use, and so I had little need for public transport in the city.

On my last night I stayed in an airport hotel - B&B Hotel - because I had a 9am departure. It was ideal. The cost was £144 for - bed and breakfast. They start breakfast at 4am which is great if you have an early departure.

06:00

06:00

It is a few kilometres from the terminal, on the former US Air Force base. The hotel operates a shuttle but I had my rented car to get me to the airport.

B&B Hotel

B&B Hotel

I rented a car for 3 days from Sadcars. I did that in spite of quite a few negative reviews on social media. I like their concept of using older cars and offering lower prices as a result. My Hyundai i20 was fine for what I needed. It had 169,000 km on the clock, and occasionally its age showed, but 99% of the time I was very happy.

Sadcars has an airport depot and one in the city. They only charged 5,000 ISK (£31/€35) extra to drop the car at a different location. Only…

Sadcars' Sadcar

Sadcars' Sadcar



You have to be careful with car insurance for Iceland. First, a normal saloon car should never be driven on an F road. It is illegal. The insurance will be invalid.

Next, even “normal” roads may have a gravel surface in places. Make sure you take the option for cover against paintwork damage caused by gravel. You can be as slow and careful as you like on gravel, but when (not if) some *ickhead in a 4X4 flashes past you at full speed, the damage will be done.

The total cost was 35,000 ISK, including the airport drop off and full, gold plated insurance. That is £221/€246.

Whilst that is a big outlay, full day excursions by coach to the places I visited were priced at upwards of €53, so even on my own the rented car was good value given the flexibility it provided. For a couple or 2/3/4 people sharing, the savings could be significant.

South Coast

South Coast

Fuel - petrol in my case - cost 238.5 ISK per litre (£1.51/€1.68).

I took the city bus once and it cost 470 ISK (€3.30/£2.97). You can pay the driver in cash but you must have the correct money. You can buy a ticket in advance from selected outlets, or like most transport systems, download an app and buy your ticket on it.

The cost of living is high in Iceland. I drink very little alcohol (these days) which saved me a lot of cash. I had one beer in my time there - that is not unusual for me, even on holiday. It cost 900 ISK (£5.70 or €6.35) in the hotel bar.

Refreshing

Refreshing

As always, I have converted prices at the exchange rates listed at the time of writing.

Posted by IainT 23:43 Archived in Iceland Tagged planes island transport flights iceland airlines reykjavik vágar Comments (0)

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